Google employees raise the alarm over policy changes that require researchers to be ‘positive.’

Google’s Corporate Oversight Concerns Researchers, Employees Who Cite Ethical Breaches

When Google first started to run the world, its motto was also a corporate code of conduct.


Now a story on claims Google has started to pressure its people with a new motto asking them to only express “positive” opinions and to react positively to research that indicates deep flaws in the company’s operations.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that the tech giant recently added a “sensitive topics” review process for its scientists’ papers, and on at least three occasions asked scientists to stop casting Google’s technology in a negative light.

“Under the new procedure, scientists are required to meet with special legal, policy, and public relations teams before pursuing AI research related to so-called controversial topics that might include facial analysis and categorizations of race, gender, or political affiliation.”

Google is even insisting on drafting some of the researcher’s comments to fit its agenda.

In one example reviewed by Reuters, scientists who had researched the recommendation AI used to populate user feeds on platforms like YouTube — a Google-owned property — had drafted a paper detailing concerns that the tech could be used to promote “disinformation, discriminatory or otherwise unfair results” and “insufficient diversity of content,” as well as lead to “political polarization.” After review by a senior manager who instructed the researchers to strike a more positive tone, and the final publication instead suggests that the systems can promote “accurate information, fairness, and diversity of content.”

This feels less like telling your employees what to work on and more like how they should think.

“Advances in technology and the growing complexity of our external environment are increasingly leading to situations where seemingly inoffensive projects raise ethical, reputational, regulatory or legal issues,” one internal webpage outlining the policy reportedly states.

Does this feel extreme to you as well?  Google even fired one of its scientists over this issue, Timnit Gebru, a globally known researcher on ethical concerns involving the impact of new, discriminatory algorithms on women and minorities, after she cried foul over censorship. In recent weeks — after Gebru left — Google has faced increased criticism over the potential biases in its internal research division.